EDINBURGH’S election is heading for a knife-edge finish after the ousting of former council leader Jenny Dawe became the most high-profile casualty of the Lib Dems in the capital.
The veteran councillor, who had led a coalition with the SNP for the last five years in the city, admitted she had a “bad feeling” in the run-up to the poll and said she was not surprised at the result.
She partly laid the blame for her downfall at the door of party leader Nick Clegg, but admitted the city’s disastrous tram project may also have been a major factor.
It is understood the city’s former transport leader Gordon Mackenzie - who has been responsible for the tram in recent years - is also likely to lose his seat in the Southside-Newington ward.
The Lib Dems have secured just three seats in the capital so far - compared to nine for the Tories and three for the Greens.
Labour insiders said it was still “neck and neck” with the SNP to become the biggest party in the city, with several key seats hanging in the balance.
Sources said Labour, the Tories and the Greens could form a coalition against the SNP to oust them from power even if the Nationalists had the most councillors.
Meanwhile Ms Dawe said she did not hold old feelings of “bitterness” towards the SNP, despite a string of policy rifts during the previous five years.
She said: “We got on well in coalition. There were things we didn’t agree on but I believe we did our best for the city. I wouldn’t do anything any differently.
“The result for me was pretty much as I expected. I had a bad feeling about it beforehand and I had all my boxes packed up. It does feel a bit like rock-bottom.
“I’m not sure how much the tram had to do with it. It wasn’t a big issue on the doorstep but a lot of people did mention it on spoilt ballot papers.”
Ms Dawe admitted her party’s unpopularity at Westminster in coalition with the Tories had been a major factor, adding: “Personally, I was never in favour of the coalition with the Tories in the first place.
“People didn’t like what was happening at Westminster. I don’t think it was so much the Coalition as the deputy prime minister in particular. It seems to get quite personal towards him.”
She added: “I stuck to my ideals, I stuck to my principles, but honesty and realism don’t always win elections.”
Mr Mackenzie said: “There’s no doubt the trams have been a nightmare for the city and I’m sure it has played a part in how people have voted.”